In Wisconsin's ongoing battle to combat the scourge of drunk driving, much of the news remains bad. But, while tragedies involving multiple drunk driving offenders grab headlines, some local governments are trying to turn things around.
In Dane County, County Executive Kathleen Falk has budgeted an additional $50,000 dollars for the Pathfinders program nest year. Offenders in the program must agree to be monitored by electronic bracelet, and to receive treatment for their alcohol abuse. Falk says the program has been incredibly successful. "The success rate is about eighty percent, which is considered very high in the alcohol treatment world," Falk says. "It works."
In Waukesha County, Executive Dan Vrakas has seen success with a program which targets repeat drunk drivers. "They basically give their lives to the judge for 13 months, and go through intensive testing and counseling," says Vrakas of the county's alcohol treatment court. Vrakas has recommended $110,000 in county funding next year to continue the alcohol treatment court , which also relies on fees paid by the drunk driving offenders. "This is an expensive program, and we're asking them to pay a lot out their pocket," explains Vrakas. "The people that show a sign of wanting to turn their life around is what this program is all about."
Falk, noting that it costs $30,000 a year to house an inmate in the Dane County jail, sees the Pathfinders program as a smart investment of county resources. "We can do better," she says. "And this program does better."